NFC North: Dan Campbell
Detroit's mini-purge of players allowed the team to create about $13 million in salary-cap space, bringing its total space to nearly $41 million as of Monday.
That figure likely will change by the time free agency begins at the end of this month. Escalators, adjustments, new extensions and other credits all impact a team's final salary-cap figure. Lions president Tom Lewand recently predicted the team would have around $35 million in cap space when the final figures come in.
Of the six players released, only two -- safety Dwight Smith and practice squad offensive lineman Jon Dunn -- hadn't been previously reported. It's possible the Lions will make more moves in the coming weeks, most notably at quarterback where Daunte Culpepper and Jon Kitna both remain on the roster.
For those interested, here is the approximate breakdown of cap savings for each player the Lions released:
Monday is the first day of 2009 that NFL teams can start manipulating their rosters in anticipation of the Feb. 27 roster compliance deadline. That's a fancy way of saying players can start negotiating contract extensions with their existing teams and clubs can start releasing players. NFL front offices have opened for business.
Some NFC North teams will be busier than others. David Birkett of the Oakland Press has added two names to the list of players the Detroit Lions are expected to release: Guard Edwin Mulitalo and tight end Dan Campbell.
That brings the total number of soon-to-be-released Lions veterans to four, including receiver Mike Furrey and cornerback Leigh Bodden. It's possible there will be others. We'll keep you updated.
Continuing around the NFC North:
- Jerry Green of the Detroit News believes Lions coach Jim Schwartz will do a good job -- if the team's front office and ownership leaves him alone.
- Broadcaster John Madden, for one, agrees with Chicago coach Lovie Smith's decision to call the majority of the Bears' defensive signals in 2009. Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times has the story.
- Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette looks at the Packers' salary-cap situation -- they were $19 million under the cap and are expected to get at least $6 million in adjustments and credits -- and what they might do with the room.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions greeted us with the most physical, emotional practice we've seen this summer. (Nothing like that Club Med they're running over in Minnesota. Oh, hi Brad!) This is what the black-and-blue division is supposed to look like.
The two-hour, full-pads affair included three bruising hits from defensive players and one very angry quarterback. Yes, Jon Kitna went bonkers on first-year linebacker Buster Davis after Davis knocked tight end John Owens to the ground during a goal-line passing drill.
Even in full-pads practices, you don't usually see players getting knocked to the ground. It definitely struck Kitna the wrong way.
"Do something, Buster! Do something!" Kitna screamed, over and over, after the play. (We're guessing he meant, "Do something in this league before you start throwing players around in practice.") Getting angrier with each yell, Kitna started walking toward Davis before a few coaches got in his way. Fists never came close to flying, but rarely do you so much as see a quarterback advance in a threatening manner.
(Of course, Davis would have had no choice but to back down. He's trying to make the team as a backup linebacker. His chances would probably decrease slightly if he beat up the starting quarterback.)
Lions coach Rod Marinelli has been preaching mental discipline throughout camp. But he's also a classic tough guy and thus seemed torn over Kitna's response. Marinelli said there is "no doubt" Kitna was protecting his offensive teammates. However, Marinelli added, "I don't like the extracurricular. I don't want that. But I understand guys standing up for each other. But we'll be a good team when we don't have penalties -- when we're tough, we're physical and we don't make mistakes. That's all."
From my vantage point, it all started during an earlier drill when linebacker Ernie Sims planted receiver Mike Furrey after a catch. Safety Dwight Smith, never at a loss for words, was jawing with offensive players for much of the goal-line drill, and Davis popped tight end Dan Campbell before his hit on Owens prompted Kitna's outburst.
Kitna is well-known for his fiery personality, but at least one player seemed surprised by how far he took it Wednesday. Receiver Roy Williams, who didn't practice but was watching from the sideline, said he appreciated Kitna's intent but added: "He probably would have gotten knocked out, so I would have rathered him stay back and be the quarterback."
I was interviewing another player when Kitna spoke to reporters, but here's what he had to say, as reported by Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com:
"I'm not going to get into specifics. That's how competitors are. Today's really the last day [of training camp] and we're ready to start seeing other people on a weekly basis. You usually don't go more than seven days without a game in the preseason, and this is our seventh day -- and we've still got three more days until we play. The guys are just ready to hit somebody else."
Everyone has their own opinion on this sort of thing, but count me in the group that considers it an encouraging sign for the Lions. As an outsider dropping in to get a glimpse of a team with few national expectations, it was nice to see the Lions getting after it. The hitting was great and reflected the toughness Marinelli is trying to install into the Lions organization.
You hope that Kitna will control those emotions during a game, but I would rather see vicious hitting and a quarterback going after a linebacker on 10 out of 10 days -- especially if the alternative is watching a lifeless group slog through another dog day of camp.
We'll bring you more practice observations later today.
Had a nice chat Friday night with Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf before his team's preseason opener at the Metrodome. Wilf committed some $70 million in guaranteed money during the Vikings' preseason shopping spree, and he was eager to see the first game action of the summer.
Although some might view the Vikings' moves as a quick-fix approach to building a contender, Wilf's philosophy has been to focus on winning now and in the future. He has charged Rick Spielman, vice president of player personnel, with assembling personnel behind the current veteran base to provide seamless transition of talent.
I didn't bother asking Wilf about the elephant in his suite: The Vikings' long-running, and still-unsolved, quest for a new stadium. Wilf and the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission are revising a proposal for downtown Minneapolis that was once priced at $954 million. They hope to bring it before the Minnesota state legislature in 2009 -- but the Vikings' lease at the Metrodome expires in 2011 and they are on most observers' short list for relocation to Los Angeles.
Wilf de-leveraged himself soon after buying the team in 2005 by saying he would never move it. He continues to follow that rhetorical path, and is instead relying on Minnesota state leaders to salvage a community asset before the NFL steps in and forces his hand.
In an extended profile of Wilf in Sunday's Star Tribune, reporter Judd Zulgad broached the topic. Wilf repeated his mantra: "I'm not considering moving [the team.] I'm not considering selling it."
In other, somewhat lighter news around the NFC North:
- The Vikings are giving a long look to their last link of the 2005 trade that sent receiver Randy Moss to Oakland. Sixth round draft choice Jaymar Johnson is working as a punt returner and receiver. The Vikings received the pick from the Jacksonville Jaguars in exchange for receiver Troy Williamson, whom the Vikings originally drafted in 2005 with one of the two draft picks they received from the Raiders for Moss. (English majors, go ahead and diagram that sentence.)
- In a Q&A with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Green Bay Packers General Manager Ted Thompson said he didn't anticipate signing a veteran quarterback to back up starter Aaron Rodgers. Currently, Rodgers' backups are rookies Brian Brohm and Matt Flynn. "We feel pretty comfortable where we are," Thompson said. "And I understand the risk involved. But our coaches like our guys."
- The Chicago Bears hadn't changed the configuration of their offensive line in time for practice Saturday night. In the wake of presumptive left tackle Chris Williams' back surgery, the Bears kept John Tait at right tackle and John St. Clair on the left side. There has been some discussion of moving Tait back to left tackle.
- Tom Kowalski of MLive.com cleans up some pending roster moves for the Detroit Lions: Cornerback Stanley Wilson will miss the season because of a torn Achilles tendon. Placekicker Jason Hanson will rest his strained left leg for at least a week, leaving kicking duties to Dave Rayner. The Lions also plan to remove tight end Dan Campbell and receiver Shaun McDonald from the Physically Unable to Perform list on Monday.